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Article published May 9, 2012 City, port in Port Townsend craft pact over Kah Tai Lagoon
By Charlie Bermant Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND — Staff members of both the Port of Port Townsend and city of Port Townsend have crafted a property-transfer agreement that, they say, would streamline operations of both — while it also probably sounds the death knell for a proposed aquatic center at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.
The agreement will reinforce the two agencies’ strengths, representatives of the port and city staff said at a joint appearance Tuesday.
The agreement, if approved by the officials, would result in the port’s withdrawing its lawsuit against the city, contesting use restrictions imposed by federal and state governments, and essentially closing the door on an aquatic facility in Kah Tai park.
“This has allowed us to reach agreement on a variety of issues that have been in front of us for more than a decade,” City Manager David Timmons said.
“This allows us to both do what we do best.”
“If we would have proceeded with a lawsuit, it would have gone to an arbitrator and cost us $50,000 to hear that we needed to sit down and settle our differences,” Port Director Larry Crockett said.
“So we decided to get to that same place on our own.”
Public comment will be heard today at the port commission’s regular meeting, which takes place at 1 p.m. at the Port Townsend Yacht Club, 2503 Washington St.
The proposal also will be discussed publicly at a joint meeting of the port commissioners and the City Council at 7 p.m. May 21 in the Cotton Building, 607 Water St.
Crockett said he delivered the news of the exchange with members of Make Waves!, which had proposed an aquatic center at the park, on Tuesday morning.
The project is not dead, he said, but probably would not be in its current location because restrictions still apply and the project has lost its advocate with the port.
As for a local aquatic facility, Timmons said the city would expend its energy toward the development of the Mountain View pool., the only public pool in Port Townsend.
“We can deal with these issues more quickly and less expensively at Mountain View than what would be required for the construction of a new facility,” Timmons said.
The pending agreement, which has been in the works for four months, would include the transfer of about 20 acres of property in the vicinity of Kah Tai Lagoon from the port to the city for inclusion in its Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park.
This transfer would implement the city’s plans, ensuring preservation of the full 80-acre Kah Tai area so it would remain a public park and open space.
In return, the city would transfer both Union Wharf and City Dock to the port, allowing it to manage these facilities.
This is more within the port’s area of expertise and is consistent with its mission of providing public and commercial access to navigable waters and promoting commerce, according to a prepared statement issued by both agencies.
The agreement also would include the vacation of some rights of way in the Boat Haven — which were termed redundant — to the port, including transfer of a portion of the former railroad line which is not being used for the Larry Scott Trail.
It would also clarify some non-conforming use regulations in the Boat Haven.
Both Timmons and Crockett say the agreement would allow them to streamline their operations, since port staff would no longer be charged with managing a portion of the park and the city would not have to manage three docks.
The actual property transfer would take several months, but the port and city would switch maintenance of the new properties as soon as their boards approve the agreement, both managers said.
This includes the development by the port of a mooring buoy field adjacent to Quincy Street Dock, which would improve boater access to downtown, staff members said.
Under the agreement, the city would abandon its claim to several rights of way near the Boat Haven, which would allow the port to develop that land.
Crockett and Timmons said the changes would make little difference today but would have impact in the future.
“The public won’t notice any differences,” Crockett said.
“But whoever is in my seat or on the port commission in 15 years will appreciate the wisdom of what we are doing.
“This won’t create jobs or bring in money next week, but the long-term effects will be very significant.”
More details on the proposed joint settlement agreement are available from either the city of Port Townsend or the Port of Port Townsend.
For further information, contact Rick Sepler, city public service director, at 360-379-5081 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Eric Toews, port planning analyst at 360-385-0656 or email@example.com.